This year, the heat comes early. When you step outside in the morning, the air is already thick and weighty as an old quilt. You have been dreading the arrival of summer. Having it show up in early May is hard to accept.
The heavy heat reminds you of the cemetery last August--how the sweat crawled between your shoulder blades while the priest said whatever priests say when a Catholic dies. It was your father’s funeral. He was a late arrival to faith and you had not chosen to come along with him. The rituals of Catholicism seemed like foreign practices to you.
When your father died, your stepmother had to call and tell you. You hadn’t expected it. Months earlier, he’d phoned to let you know about his diagnosis. It was bladder cancer, but he said the doctor told him if he was going to have to have a cancer, bladder cancer was a good one to have. You’d called after the surgery and he said they’d got it all. You called again a few weeks later. Your stepmother said he was doing well. Playing golf, organizing the concession stand for the girls’ basketball team, brewing beer in the basement. At the moment, he was out. You should call back later. You didn’t.
At the cemetery, your father’s twin teenage daughters peered at you from behind their curtains of dark hair. They kept their distance, as they always had. You were nearly 40, almost as old as their mother--the extra part leftover when your father built his new family. Some of the funeral-goers gazed at your wiry red hair, your skin as pale as skim milk. “I take after my mother,” you said.
While the priest spoke, your father’s wife and kids sat in metal folding chairs shaded by a funeral home tent. You stood off to one side. Hot sun plowed a sharp furrow through your hair. Sweat trickled down your spine. Days later, layers of your blistered skin peeled away like plastic wrap that had been clinging to a plate of leftover food.
FOUST is a writer and printmaker who lives in Richmond, VA with her lovely husband, Melvyn, and three spoiled dogs. She has an MFA in Fiction from Spalding University. Her story collection Sins of Omission was published in spring of 2015 by Tidal Press.
DECEMBER WRITING TIP:
"Fiction that isn't an author's personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn't worth writing for anything but money." ― Jonathan Franzen